NYSCOPBA pushing for more staffing in state prisons

Former Orleans Correctional Officer, Jim Ambrose

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Jim Ambrose doesn’t remember much from November 3, 2011.

“He got his hands around my neck and he choked me until I passed out,” he recalled.

Ambrose was working as a Corrections Officer at Orleans Correctional when a 17-year-old inmate assaulted him.

He suffered a concussion and a serious neck injury, which has caused him to be on long-term disability.

“The department has actually taken some steps to make things safer for the job itself, but the bottom line is, the inmate that the men and women who work in the facilities deal with every day is a more violent inmate,” said Western Region VP of the New York Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association or NYSCOPBA, Joe Miano.

Staffing compared to state prison inmate populations in New York
Staffing compared to state prison inmate populations in New York

Miano told News 4 that in recent years, non-violent offenders have been placed in state facilities less often, so those that do end up there tend to be more violent.

“As a union we always ask for more staffing because the more staff, it makes an officer less vulnerable,” Miano told News 4.

Staffing often comes up during official union discussions, but Miano said the usual response from the Department of Corrections is “noted.”

Miano and Ambrose have both worked in the DOC for more than 20 years.

“There was 37 other inmates on the dorm when that happened. And I was by myself,” Ambrose told News 4.

There used to be “rovers,” COs who would move from dorm to dorm; they were eliminated statewide back in the early 2000s, according to Miano.

There’s been several requests from NYSCOPBA to bring rover positions back, but none have been successful.

CO staffing has gone down by 12.3 percent since 1999, but the inmate population has dropped by more; 28.1 percent.

In 2000, there were 3.2 inmates per each corrections officer in a New York State prison. Now, that ratio is 2.7 inmates per each corrections officer.

Still, since 2012 the number of assaults on prison staff by inmates has been on the rise.

There were 524 back in 2012, 645 in 2013, 747 in 2014 and 895 in 2015.

“The Department does not tolerate violence within its correctional facilities and is making investments to safeguard staff through the introduction of innovative technology and comprehensive training.  While no assault on staff is acceptable, a review of the following figures confirms we are fortunate in that the majority of such incidents from 2012 through 2015 resulted in no injuries at all or minor injuries,” said Director of Public Information for the DOC, Thomas Mailey in a statement.

Miano told News 4 given the violent nature of inmates currently houses in New York state prisons, more staffing is essential to protection corrections officers.


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